The “Texas Leica” (aka the Fuji GW690ii)

A few months ago, I picked up the the Fuji GW690ii, affectionally called the “Texas Leica” by many. The nickname suits it quite well. Similar to a Leica, it is an all mechanical (no batteries!) true rangefinder camera — but way bigger because this camera makes massive 6×9 medium format exposures. This is the largest size you can get before you enter the land of large format photography.

Despite it’s potentially off-putting size, the Texas Leica is a joy to shoot. The fixed mount lens is a 90mm f/3.5 (which is roughly about a 50mm f/2 in full format). The lens creates a unique look to my eyes and it’s liberating not having to deal with additional lens options. Another meaningful constraint is only 8 shots per roll of 120mm film. This constraint really slows you down and I can feel myself relax when I’m out making photographs with this camera. Operating the camera (loading film, adjusting shutter, aperture and focusing) is super simple and straightforward. The rangefinder patch itself isn’t nearly as bright as the Mamiya 7ii or a Leica M but it’s totally functional.

The most significant drawback for me is the camera doesn’t have bulb mode. So long exposures (>1 second) requires the photographer to set the camera to T mode. Then after your desired exposure time, you have to turn the shutter dial to stop the film exposure. It works but it’s super odd.

I am still getting a feel for this camera and honestly not sure if it will replace my beloved Mamiya 7ii. But for now, I am having a lot of fun with it.

(All images made with the Fuji Gw690ii and Kodak Portra 400 film)

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